British Colonial Treaties in Africa: The Case of Banjul

Map and Flag of The Gambia

As we saw last week, the capital of The Gambia, Banjul, was first a colony of the Duchy of Courland which was then part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth or modern-day Latvia, then became a British colony. Below is a treaty signing over the island of Banjul, at the time of the British.

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Combo. St. Mary Island [Banjul]. (The map of Africa by Treaty, Vol 1, P.370 – 371)

On the 4th June, 1827,* a Treaty was signed between the Governor of the British Possessions on the West Coast of Africa, and the King of Gumbo, confirming the Cession to Great Britain of the Island of St. Mary’s and adjoining territory, from which the following are extracts :—~

Banjola and St. Mary Island.

Bathurst (modern-day Banjul) in 1824

“ The Treaty in which the Island of St. Mary’s was formerly given up to the British Government not being forthcoming, it is hereby agreed :—

“ I. Abolition of Slave Trading.

“ II. That the Island of St. Mary’s, the Cape, and the boundary bordering on other States to the southward and east ward of Coomba shall be open for every branch of commerce between the subjects of His Majesty, the King of Great Britain, and the natives of Cumba or any other kingdoms.

“III. That the Island of Banjola, now called St. Mary’s, and the adjoining territory, may be possessed by the Government and subjects of Great Britain for building and making farms in such places as are not actually possessed by any other person at the time, arranging the boundaries with the Alcaide of Baccow.

“IV. Annual Presents to be made to the King of Combo.

* H.T., vol. xii, p. 11.

How to Sign over a River? : British Colonial Treaties in Africa – The Case of the Gambia River

Map and Flag of The Gambia

As I read more colonial treaties signed on the continent, it is hard for a modern mind to understand the concept of ceding over rivers. How do you know where the river ends? Is the river part of just one kingdom? What do you do when it is split among several kingdoms? Did the Europeans take that into consideration, if they only had the signature from one king, and not others? Or did they just cause war to get the remainder of the river? What do you think?

Below is the example of the Gambia River.

On the 3rd September, 1783, a Treaty was concluded between Great Britain and France, by Article X of which the King of the French guaranteed to the King of Great Britain the possession of Fort James (Albreda) [located on modern-day Kunta Kinteh Island] and of the River Gambia.

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Cession of the River Gambia to Great Britain. (The map of Africa by Treaty, Vol 1, P.367 – 368)

On the 15th June, 1826,+ a Convention was signed between the Acting Governor of Sierra Leone and the King of Barra and of the River Gambia, with his Chiefs and headmen, for the cession of the Gambia to Great Britain.

Map of the River Gambra (now Gambia) in 1732

It contained the following stipulations:

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“ 2nd. The said Brunay, King of Barra, by and with the advice and consent of his Chiefs and headmen before named, cedes, transfers, and makes over to his Honour Kenneth Macaulay, Acting Governor of  Sierra Leone, and his successors, Governors of Sierra Leone for the time being, on the part and behalf of His Majesty the King of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, his heirs, and successors forever, the full, entire, free, and unlimited right, title, sovereignty; and possession of the River Gambia, with all the branches, creeks, inlets, and waters of the same, as they have been held and possessed by the Kings of Barra from time immemorial ; and the said Brunay, King of Barra, with the advice and consent of his said Chiefs and headmen as aforesaid, does further cede and forever relinquish all and every right, claim, or demand for customs or duties of any description on British or other vessels entering or navigating the River Gambia, or any of the waters thereof (as have been formerly demanded and taken).

+ S.P., vol. xlviii, p. 882; H.T., vol. xii, p. 5. See also Treaties, 6th January, 1832, p. 824, and 18th November, 1850, p. 326.

British Colonial Treaties in Africa: The Ruud Concession in Zimbabwe 30 Oct 1888

Zimbabwe_Rudd_Concession between Cecil Rhodes and Lobengula 1880s
The Rudd Concession

One treacherous treaty signed by the British in Africa is the Rudd Concession, a written concession for exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland and other adjoining territories in what is today Zimbabwe, signed between King Lobengula of Matabeleland and Charles Rudd, James Rochfort Maguire and Francis Thompson, three agents acting on behalf of the British imperialist South African-based politician and businessman Cecil Rhodes, on 30 October 1888. Despite Lobengula’s retrospective attempts to disavow it, it proved the foundation for the royal charter granted by the United Kingdom to Rhodes’s British South Africa Company in October 1889, and thereafter for the Pioneer Column‘s occupation of Mashonaland in 1890, which marked the beginning of white settlement, administration and development in the country that eventually became Rhodesia, named after Rhodes, in 1895.

Lobengula1
King Lobengula of Matabeleland

In reality, the Rudd Concession was a deceitful perfidious trick played by the British on King Lobengula to: 1) take his lands, and 2) appropriate the entire country then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from local chiefs who of course knew no English (or very little of it), with translators who very often were also cheating the kings of their lands.

The fact that Lobengula was a force to reckon with is not to be ignored. Cecil Rhodes himself confided to Rothschild saying, “I have always been afraid of the difficulty of dealing with the Matabele King. He is the only block to central Africa, as, once we have his territory, the rest is easy … the rest is simply a village system with separate headmen …” So trickery was the only way to go for Rhodes in order to get Lobengula.

Zimbabwe_charles_rudd
Charles Rudd

Moreover, when you read the concession itself, it’s written on a piece of common paper, as in a 6th grader homework sheet, not legible even by those days’ standards, let alone by a non-native speaker such as Lobengula. It was not a colonial treaty of sovereignty, but a written concession awarding exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland, and surrounding areas between King Lobengula of the Matabeleland, and James Rudd (representing Cecil Rhodes). For example, King Lobengula never ever discussed nor negotiated a single term in the fraudulent Rudd Concession with the British. Typical of European colonization in Africa!

Zimbabwe_Cecil Rhodes
Cecil Rhodes

This was signed on 30 October 1880. As early as 1889, King Lobengula tried to disavow the treaty, after realizing that he had been tricked. Once King Lobengula grasped the extent of this treachery (I mean, who would think that by talking to some people, ‘putting an X’ – signing some documents you don’t even understand, you are giving your entire land, sovereignty, humanity, inheritance, burial grounds, and people?), he sent a delegation to talk to the ‘White’ queen, Queen Victoria (similar to delegations sent by other African Kings, Prempeh, Behanzin to France, Duala Kings in Kamerun to Germany, etc) about the misappropriation, but his delegation was made to linger in London and was eventually never received, all while the British occupied the lands.

Cecil Rhodes was so happy about the Rudd Concession that he said, it is “so gigantic it is like giving a man, the whole of Australia”… OUTRAGEOUS!!!

For more information, please do check out the website of the late Jenny Bennett who did outstanding work detailing the story of , Lobengula and the concession hunters, and Lobengula’s betrayal, and the , or read  Arthur Keppel-Jones, Rhodes Rhodesia Conquest book.

 

Colonial Treaties in Africa: British Protection Treaty with the Itsekiri of Nigeria 1884

Le partage de l'Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884
Le partage de l’Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884

First of all, I would like to raise my hat to Peter Ekeh, the editor of the website Waado.org who has done an amazing job archiving and analyzing some of the treacherous treaties signed between the British and the local populations of Southern Nigeria. I am publishing here a protection treaty signed on 16 July 1884; this was the first treaty signed by the British in that area. Here is what Ekeh says, “Although the first clause, Article I,  of these pro forma  Protection Treaties claimed that the British were engaging in their agreements in “compliance with the request of the Chiefs and People” of the political communities concerned, it was clear that the Foreign Office from London and its assigned imperial agents, in the Niger Delta and beyond, were driving the terms and purpose of the treaties.

nigeria_delta-map
Nigeria delta map

Indeed, it is doubtful that the Chiefs of any Nigerian communities understood the letter, let alone the spirit, of these Treaties of Protection whose pro forma texts were printed in England, written in English, and “interpreted” by British imperial agents to the signatory chiefs. However, the consequence of their signing the Treaties  was that these Chiefs and their people lost their sovereignty.” Below is one of them. Check out Waado.org to read an in-depth analysis of the 16 July 1884 British colonial treaty with the Itsekiri people, as well as to see the appendix to the 1884 Treaty between the British and the Itsekiri.

 

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